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Connacht into URC semi-finals after shocking Ulster

Belfast , United Kingdom - 5 May 2023; Shamus Hurley-Langton of Connacht celebrates at the final whistle of the United Rugby Championship Quarter-Final match between Ulster and Connacht at Kingspan Stadium in Belfast. (Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Five penalties from Jack Carty helped Connacht advance to the semi-finals of the BKT United Rugby Championship at the expense of Ulster after the visitors won a tense Irish derby 15-10 at Kingspan Stadium.


Connacht will now travel to South Africa next week to meet the winners of Saturday’s quarter-final between the DHL Stormers and the Vodacom Bulls.

This was only the third time Connacht have beaten Ulster in Belfast since 1960 and each of these wins have been secured since Dan McFarland took over at Ulster in 2018.

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The result was a massive blow to Ulster who would have earned themselves a home semi-final with victory in a contest where they scored the game’s only try through their skipper Alan O’Connor after the hosts had battled back from trailing 12-3 to cut Connacht’s lead to two points.

The remainder of Ulster’s points came from John Cooney’s conversion of the O’Connor try and a penalty.

After 14 minutes of stalemate, Connacht won a penalty near Ulster’s line and opted to tap and go only for Dave Heffernan to knock-on which prompted a bout of squabbling between the Irish rivals which in turn led to a home team penalty after Cian Prendergast appeared to have ignited the situation.

Connacht should have scored on 17 minutes when Tom Farrell held on to the ball with Caolin Blade outside him which resulted in Michael Lowry’s departure though three minutes later Ulster opened the scoring when Cooney slotted a penalty after Connacht had strayed offside.


The scores were tied on 24 minutes through Carty’s penalty and the visitors took the lead eight minutes later when Carty added a second three-pointer from the tee.

With Connacht in the ascendency, Carty kicked his third penalty to make it 9-3 to the visitors at half-time.

Just four minutes after the restart, Carty gave Connacht the perfect start by making it 12-3 after Ulster were penalised at a scrum.

Connacht then butchered several scoring opportunities and Ulster managed to get on the front-foot with several penalties in the visitors’ 22 which culminated in Tom Stewart breaking off from a maul and skipper O’Connor diving over.


Cooney converted the 64th-minute try, and Ulster had cut Connacht’s lead to 12-10.


However, with the tension rising Ulster were penalised after winning a turnover and Carty kicked his fifth penalty of the evening putting the western province five points clear and they survived Ulster’s last-gasp onslaught.


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